My name is Christine Mulvihill and I am a 15 year old childhood cancer survivor. I thought that after I was discharged from the hospital everything would be normal or even sort of normal, but that’s not how this story goes. You see, somewhere through all this my soul has been scared and a curse cast upon myself, a curse I will take to my grave.
After 10 years cancer free I look back on the entire cancer experience, from 2 years old in oncology to 15 years old in high school, to document my life as a cancer patient and a childhood cancer survivor. I have written more than 40 poems and several short stories about my life with cancer and I am passing them to you in hopes that you will be better prepared to face what may be coming during and after cancer.
"But since you’re here stay a while
You won’t have fun, but I can make you smile,
and laugh at all you are afraid to face
This is my soul, an unnerving place."
My story begins at the age of two in the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
I saw the tears in my mother’s eyes and the concern on my father’s face. I had no idea why or what was happening. ”what’s going on momma” I asked her. She didn’t reply, she just held my hand and started to cry.
Good morning teachers and students, I am here to talk to you about my experience with childhood cancer, but more specifically leukemia.
Less than 40% chance is not what anyone would have hoped for. But you can’t change the odds; you can only fight against them.
When we found out that I had ALL, (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) my family members tried to explain to me what was going to happen, but I know now that nothing in the entire world could prepared me for what was about to happen.
Before all this I could not imagine all the things that would happen. All the drugs I would have pumped through my veins, or even worse the ones taken by mouth. Trust me they’re not all that sweet Banana flavour. I could never even begin to think about all the treatments and radiation and piercing the port right through my skin. Words cannot explain to you the pain that I experienced just so I could stand here today and tell you my story.
Before I knew it I was hooked up to an IV and all my long blonde gorgeous hair was gone, once perfectly placed on my 2 year old head, now on my pillow.
Sitting in the hospital bed with the sounds of people crying and other children screaming out in pain and agony echoing through my head. But through the pain and suffering there was always someone there to keep me company.
Aside from my parents and family who were by my side the entire 3 years never giving up hope, my aunt Jamie was always there when I felt down. We would always have fun playing games and she would always paint my nails just to make me feel special. My grandmother, a retired nurse herself, was also another very special person; she always knew that I would overcome my illness. Every day she would take me to the chapel in the church and I would stare at the enormously realistic wood carved statue of Jesus. I would ask “even though you look like you are in more pain than me, can you ask your father to help me.”
Then my grandmother and I would go back to the room and say this prayer together;
And now I lay me down to sleep and I pray you lord my soul to keep, but if I shall die before I wake, I pray you Lord my soul to take.
After a while you realize that you’re stuck in the hospital for a while. In the hospital I met an Angel, and her name was Sarah. She was in the room next to me and she had leukemia too. She was a very sweet girl and we had fun together, she helped me not to feel as different. We shared a lot of things like pizza parties, we played in the art room and we gave each other the drugs that were impossible to take. It seemed much easier to swallow when she gave them to me, compared to 5 nurses holding me down while they poured it down my throat. Out of all my friends on the fourth floor she was the best. She was an amazing friend even if she was only 3.
But eventually all angels must go back to heaven. And about a year later my angel Sarah went back to heaven. She died in her sleep, because the doctors failed to find a match for her bone marrow transplant. It made me sad just to look at the empty bed on that fourth floor in room 420. Although it was 10 years ago that she died I will always remember her because she will forever be in my heart.
And even though she died along with other people I cared about like my friend Sister Jacklyn, death never crossed my mind. After her death I still never lost hope, and I promised never to give up. And even after I relapsed and had to start all over again, I promised myself to keep on fighting until I was just like everyone else again, until I could wake up in my own bed and run free without that stupid IV. No matter how painful a struggle no matter how long, I would have fought to eternity to be healthy again.
I was just a young child when I was first diagnosed with leukemia. A young girl who’s fate would have brought her to the grave. But look at me now. I am standing here in front of you and although I may be far different from all of you on the outside, I am still a person on the inside. My physical scars in time will heal, but my emotional scars will remain forever.